It seems that all the games I'm interested in are on the Wii. I find it interesting how games that are limited by the Wii's inferior technology and the child-audience stigma that only utter morons could impose on everyone else can hold my attention infinitely more so than most PS3 titles, which makes it disappointing that the Wii U seems to be trying to join in on the PS3 and Xbox 360's fun when it's perfectly alright doing its own thing. The Wiimote, while in dire need of a free consultant package just so they can tell any aspiring Wii game developers how not to implement the thing stupidly, actually works quite well if you use it right. I think the best use of it is to point at things, such as with the chain in Pandora's Tower and with aiming guns in pretty much any Wii rail shooter you can name. Right off the bat, I feel that Sin and Punishment: Successor of the Skies is superior to its predecessor because it allows you to aim with the Wiimote and move with the Nunchuck's control stick rather than use a controller's analog stick to aim and the shoulder buttons to move.
Of course, that's from a gameplay standpoint. Unfortunately, as for its story, it's largely underwhelming when put next to Successor of the Earth (the Japanese subtitle for the original game). I'm not saying that the original game's story was by any means good, and Successor of the Skies is at least able to be followed (somewhat), but it definitely didn't operate on some sort of checklist. Successor of the Skies concerns Isa Jo, your typical bishounen protagonist but this time with a ridiculously stupid outfit (not only does he have a soccer ball on his back but he seems to be trying to pull a Zettai Ryouiki), and Kachi, an alien that looks exactly like a human except for a tail that I keep mistaking for a cord. They are on the run from the Nebulox, an impossibly well-funded and equipped group of five powerful humans who have been assembled to kill Kachi. As you can probably guess, Kachi is the socially-unsavvy girl with amnesia, Isa has sworn to protect her and generally acts jocular and the Nebulox have come to the conclusion that acting like smug jerks is the best way to stop Isa and Kachi. If that sounds familiar to you, you've probably watched/played at least one anime/JRPG in the last decade or so.
... What in God's holy name are you wearing?
Chances are that anime/JRPG was more eventful than this game. In contrast to its predecessor, Successor of the Skies is four to five hours long but the story basically consists of Isa and Kachi going through various locales only to fight a member of the Nebulox at the end of each one before finally taking the fight to their stronghold. Also, while there are plenty of skies, there isn't a whole lot of succeeding of them. As it turns out, the backstory is greatly expanded on in the instruction manual, which annoys me. Video Game Writing Tip #1: Make the story suitable for the gameplay you are implementing. You remember how, in my Infinity Blade review, I brought up how II's story included saving the entire world yet the gameplay was confined to a single island while the first Infinity Blade was just about overthrowing a tyrant whose base of operations was the island on which the game took place? Yeah, that's like Successor of the Skies here. I don't think a rail shooter is the kind of game to show a story involving Treasure-knows-how-many levels of civilisation, especially when the game only takes place in a single country.
Before starting the game, you can choose to play as either Isa or Kachi. I'm the kind of guy who chooses the female for the sake of playing as a female in a game for once but I can't see Kachi as being the better choice of the two. While Isa generally functions like Saki did in the original game if he had the slowest jetpack ever, Kachi's regular fire auto-locks onto enemies which isn't that useful here because most enemies are just score fodder for you to mow down by the dozens which is why individual enemies leading your reticule away from the bulk gets annoying really quickly, especially since it's hard to shake them off. Furthermore, Isa's charge shot is a massive blast that does more damage than melee-reflecting some explosives and recharges fairly quickly. Kachi, on the other hand, charges up to eight individual blasts to fire at an equal number of enemies or focus all the blasts onto one opponent. It sounds useful but you'll probably have cleared one quarter of the level before it recharges. If you want speed and efficiency, use Isa. Yes, I know his fashion sense is hideous but you'll live; the game's only four hours long.
Okay, it's useful against bosses because it inflicts 50 damage for each shot but it's still not the most versatile weapon.
The gameplay hasn't really changed much, possibly because the game is a rail shooter and there's only so much you can do with a game in which you move along the level on rails and point at things that aren't you and make them fall over. Well, actually, there's been a few significant deviations in gameplay. First of all, you no longer run side to side and jump, and thank God for that; now you just float around the screen all you want, automatically walking when you're on the ground. This is great because it's one less thing to focus on in this bullet hell-rail shooter hybrid. Secondly, you can now aim with the Wiimote rather than the Nunchuck stick which makes aiming incredibly smooth like you're using a mouse only now you're pointing it at the screen. As a whole, the control scheme has cleaned up very nicely. If you're not in the market for a story in particular, I believe you'll like this particular game.
There are, however, a few stains that need getting rid off. First of all, the melee attack. Typical gamer behaviour dictates that, if you wish to use a melee attack, you will mash that button as hard and fast as you can like it dispenses candy. Do not do that here; you have access to a three-hit combo but doing the third attack leaves you defenceless and immobile for a second. As you can probably guess by this game being this game, this is not unlike taunting in a fighting game with your enemy right in front of you preparing their Super Crispy I-Would-Like-Fries-With-You Hadouken. Furthermore, I think there's a bit of a delay with the melee attack because it seems to only work when you press it one fraction of a second before you want it, which really bit me in the arse during a particular boss fight where I had to parry their sword charges and it took me several billion bifurcations to get the timing down and, even then, I had to remain perfectly still because the melee attack is not good for on-the-spot usage. This also makes reflecting projectiles an incredible nuisance, especially when you're being fired at by many other enemies.
It's very powerful and useful but use it sparingly.
Oh, yeah, about difficulty. Even if you have played Successor of the Earth and you find yourself liking the Wiimote for this game, heed my advice; start the game on Easy. I made the mistake of choosing Normal and got treated horribly for it. In this game, score matters less to me than staying alive. Even when I played the game again with my brother so I had twice as much firepower, meaning I could actually play for the purpose of a high score, I still died repeatedly, each time with the prolonged "Game over" notice hovering on the screen with that annoying music that has now bunked in the same room of my brain as that silly music from Hyperdimension Neptunia (which I have discovered is called "La Dele Dele". How fitting). What's worse, the game carries your overall score between levels to calculate them at the end of it all. However, if you die at any point, your score will be reduced to 0. Do you see what this means? If you're playing for scoring purposes, you have to finish the entire game without ever dying. I've played Japanese games with true ending criteria that were less extreme than this. Still, this is genuine difficulty rather than fake difficulty and I'm okay with hard games that require genuine skill to master.
However, it is rather cheap of the game to make it difficult to see anything past the godforsaken bloom. I'm not kidding when I say it's ridiculously hard to make out several enemies and even some boss weak points because they all blend together to become indistinguishable blobs of light. Just to make it worse, most of the enemies are coloured in such a way that they camouflage into their surroundings. I was playing co-op with my brother and he admitted himself that prolonged play was hurting his eyes because of how much we actually had to look to see our enemies or their weak points. It's bad enough in any other game but this is a bullet hell shooter; if you can't tell the enemies or their attacks from the background, you're inevitably going to get confused and maybe a little bit embarrassed when it seems like the entire level is heading your way like a glowing tidal wave.
When my brother and I were playing, we could hardly even tell where the boss' weak point was.
Fortunately, co-op makes the game much easier. If you have a spare Wiimote lying around, invite a friend and have a game. Given how this game has two protagonists, it isn't surprising that each player controls either one independently, which is why it is surprising that such is not the case. Instead, Player 1 controls a character while Player 2 controls an independent reticule to fire at anything else with Isa's standard shots but they lack the charge shot that would make the game a total breeze. This makes certain scenes look rather weird, such as when both Isa and Kachi stand in front of a boss but whoever you're playing as signals to the other to move out of the way. However, this is a preferable alternative as having another character on the screen would just make things even more complicated and hard to see.
In any event, my brother and I had a lot of fun with it. We enjoyed racking up high kill counts and congratulating each other when we got a medal for getting 1000 kills as well as pointing out the outstanding moments of the story and the gameplay flaws. It was also fun how there were a lot of enemies on screen or two vastly distinct foes and we quickly determined who would do what, such as in the side-scrolling Level 3 where tough enemies were in front of me and I dispatched them with melee attacks while I got my brother to attack any and all enemies far away.
Twice the firepower!
I'd like to bring up the Nebulox now. Yeah, they make for pretty dynamic boss fights but they kind of rub me the wrong way. Every single one of them demonstrates startlingly unique abilities that are never explained. For example, Armon Ritter, a fat guy in a business suit, has the ability to transform into a giant protozoa, a giant seahorse with tentacles and a school of dolphins. Also, when defeated in one of his forms (which is possible because he loses his immunity to Isa's shots that he had in his intro cutscene), he separates into a bunch of black fluid spheres that can be destroyed to reduce his health more quickly. How, exactly, can he do all this? And don't get me started on Deko Gekisho who has a scarf that can transform into a massive dragon... just because. I know it's because it's cool but I would like to know how these humans came across such singular powers.
By the way... You know how Successor of the Earth's graphics seemed to have been developed by a pile of vomit living in a tree house? Well, I never mentioned it because, when it comes to older games, I tend to not care about the graphics because I set my expectations for them quite low, not to mention graphics are not a make-or-break factor for me. However, Successor of the Skies came out in Japan in 2009 and the graphics look like they've been developed by the dwellers of the nadir of the Uncanny Valley so that's one thing the game has in common with its predecessor. It doesn't break the game for me but there are a few instances where I was just the slightest bit unnerved. Another aspect shared between them is the transition from cutscene to gameplay and vice versa. Again, it's very smooth and there are no bumps whatsoever. Even the appearance of the HUD does nothing to break the flow.
The cutscene itself upgrades this face to Nightmare Fuel levels.
Oh, in case you were wondering, yes, the game is still trying to be inventive, which I appreciate. I like it when games push the boundaries of their gameplay mechanics and console hardware to add variety rather than just make us do the same things over and over again. For example, one boss fight takes place on a railway and you win by decoupling the train cars so that they hit the boss when it's behind you. That said, it tends to go a bit far at times. You see, one phase of a late boss is actually a 2D fighter. In co-op, your partner's shooting abilities are disabled and the boss has got a leash on your arm, meaning you can't fly. This is interesting in theory but you only have one combo, three if you could pressing the B button only once or twice rather than three times, and a dodge function. Worst of all, if this is your first try, you will be completely unprepared and, after the fight, completely unmoving. If you're playing for high score purposes, please make sure to take note of your high score pecking you on the cheek before jumping off the nearest cliff.
From 3D to 2.5D. That's Sin and Punishment.
So that's Sin and Punishment: Successor of the Skies for you. I wouldn't really recommend Successor of the Earth because of its controls but Successor of the Skies has avoided that problem very neatly. Furthermore, it lasts... a bit longer, it's fun to play with a friend and it's genuinely hard instead of cheap (bloom issues aside). I think the biggest reason I like the Sin and Punishment games is that they have a lot of ideas to keep things varied and interesting; the levels all feel different whether in terms of scale or atmosphere and the gameplay changes really help to break the monotony even if they tend to be incredibly frustrating. I do believe making the story follow on from the ending of Successor of the Earth was a mistake, though; that game was overly complicated in both gameplay and story and the developers expect you to play that game to understand the story behind this one. That's like putting an awesome museum at the end of the Cretan Labyrinth.
Here are the rest of my reviews.
I have to say, I'm quite liking these rail shooters. Maybe I pick up that 3DS Starfox game... Nah.